I was shocked that this got very little attention earlier this week when the inspector general for the TARP program released his audit. The audit showed that as many as 49 executives at a handful of firms that received the biggest bailouts received from $5 million and up in compensation, approved by the special master that the Treasury Department appointed, Kenneth Feinberg, to review executive compensation. And we’re talking about the firms that got the largest payouts, including AIG, General Motors, the largest bailouts. And AIG was by far the worst. In fact, Feinberg told the auditors that that company represented 80 percent of his headaches over the past few years.
The most interesting part of the audit, though, I thought, was that Feinberg reported that the Treasury Department and officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York were regularly pressuring him to increase the pay of these bailed-out firms. Now, understand, AIG was 90 percent owned by the federal government, after receiving $180 billion in bailouts. It is still 70 percent owned by the taxpayers. And yet the CEO of AIG, Robert Benmosche, received $10.5 million in ’09, $10.5 million in ’10, and $10.5 million in 2011, including $3 million in cash every year, even though Congress and President Obama had said they were going to limit executive pay to $500,000 a year.
A new report by a federal-watchdog agency questions whether the U.S. government will be able to recover over the short term—if ever—the investment it has made in American International Group.
The report by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) was also highly critical of AIG’s compensation policies, and the agency suggests that even after AIG exits the government-aid programs, that its regulators should keep a close eye on its compensation policies.